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Parliamentary Debate Club meeting in Kendall Hall. Madeline Barry/Collegian
Par­lia­mentary Debate Club meeting in Kendall Hall. Madeline Barry/Collegian

They don’t wear wigs, and they don’t drink tea, but members of the new British Par­lia­mentary Debate club said they do enjoy public speaking.

Co-founders sophomore Matthew Kendrick and junior Duncan Voyles said they founded the British Par­lia­mentary Debate club this year as an alter­native to the schedule-intensive existing debate and forensics teams. Although they said they hope to even­tually raise funds to compete, the club is scrim­maging among each other, for now.

“I became inter­ested in starting up a par­lia­mentary debate club because I simply could not afford the time com­mitment of the current program,” Kendrick said. “I was inter­ested in finding an alter­native solution, so I could con­tinue growing in the activity that I love.”

Kendrick and Voyles said stu­dents can commit as much or as little time as they like to the club, though they prefer atten­dance at practice once a week to prepare for tour­nament com­pe­tition, should funding be obtained.

Instead of com­peting one-on-one, as in the existing Lincoln-Douglas debate program, speakers in par­lia­mentary debate clash in teams of two. Two teams argue for a res­o­lution, and two teams argue against it, according to the American Par­lia­mentary Debate Asso­ci­ation. The teams receive a res­o­lution con­sid­ering social, political, and eco­nomic issues 15 minutes before each round. Pos­sible res­o­lu­tions might focus on the effects of nor­mal­izing rela­tions between the U.S. and Cuba or enshrining gay rights in the Con­sti­tution, Voyles said.

Assistant Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Adam Car­rington is the club’s faculty adviser and said he thinks it is another way to promote con­ver­sation at Hillsdale.

“The format of these debates allows for par­tic­i­pants to develop their rhetorical skills in a way that allows for the devel­opment of cohesive argu­ments as well as the back-and-forth needed to refine those argu­ments,” Car­rington said. “I hope this new club can provide another dis­tinctive and useful avenue to gen­erate debate and dis­cussion on campus.”

Voyles iden­tified three primary advan­tages of British par­lia­mentary debate: broad com­mu­ni­cation, argu­men­tation over social issues, and practice with a standard inter­na­tional debate format.

“British par­lia­mentary empha­sizes com­mu­ni­cation to a broad audience,” he said. “It dis­penses with jargon and encourages debaters to argue in plain lan­guage they could use with anyone.”

Unlike other forms of debate, British par­lia­mentary also tackles social issues involving the insti­tu­tions of family and mar­riage, Voyles said.

“You learn how to advocate your posi­tions on these matters respect­fully and per­sua­sively,” he said.

Voyles said par­lia­mentary structure is also the inter­na­tional standard format for debates. Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford uni­ver­sities as well as inter­na­tional schools have similar teams, Voyles said.

He added that debate also creates strong rela­tion­ships.

“Most people don’t think of debate as a team sport, but in my per­sonal expe­rience, debate teams are the tightest knit groups of friends,” Voyles said.

The program has not yet obtained funding for tour­na­ments, but it prac­tices on Thursdays from 6 – 9 p.m. on the fourth floor of Kendall Hall.

“Par­lia­mentary debate allows you to get to see people’s minds and char­acter at work as they wrestle with mean­ingful things in and outside of the round,” Voyles said. “That draws people together.”